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This post is all about dorm room essentials! From smart storage solutions to cute dorm decor ideas, these dorm essentials will make you super prepared for your freshman year dorm room.

dorm room essentials

Top Dorm Room Essentials

  1. Mattress topper
  2. Shower caddy
  3. Space-saving hangers
  4. Rolling laundry basket

In this post, I’m going to share with you the college dorm packing list of essentials I couldn’t live without, and these four top dorm essentials are my favorites! Being a freshman is pretty overwhelming, but my biggest secret to making your dorm room feel like home is to make your bed as comfortable as it can be, and fill your space with photos of you and the people you love! I’ve shared these ideas with younger girls moving into their dorms for many years and they absolutely love my ideas! This list will help anyone pack for college and completely take the guesswork out of the main things you can’t forget to pack. We’re not thinking about college dorm room ideas and decor right now, we’re only going to focus on the essentials (which is a great place to start packing)!



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Random things some colleges don’t let you bring (varies by college):
  • Extension cords
  • Command Hooks
Do I need a headboard?

I do not think you need a headboard! I liked having a headboard but lots of my friends went years and some went all of college without having one and their rooms still looked so cute. Don’t think you need to get a headboard unless you want to.

My Dorm Living Essentials - The Basics

  • Trash can
  • Vanity mirror with lights (doubles as a desk lamp)
  • Mini fridge organizer
  • Bedside caddy
  • Shower caddy
  • Hangers (these space savings hangers are a life saver)
  • Fan
  • Moving bags
  • Rolling laundry basket
  • Command Hooks variety pack
  • Extension cord
  • Small vacuum (they might provide for you)

You can find ALL the links to my Dorm Room Essentials for 2024 here!

Trash Can

There are a few basic dorm living essentials that I couldn’t have survived freshman year, or really any year of college, without. The first essential is a trash can. Especially in a dorm, you need a trash can so you don’t always have to go to the bathroom to throw something away. There are so many cute trash cans you can get, too, so don’t worry about it being ugly!

Vanity Mirror with Lights

Next is a vanity mirror with lights. This can double as a desk lamp, and it’s such a necessity for getting ready. I still have mine that I use when I travel and it’s the best. It doesn’t have to be big, but you’ll definitely want a mirror that you can do your skincare and makeup in.

Mini Fridge Organizer

This next one you probably wouldn’t think about and it’s kind of an uncommon dorm room essentials, but it’s a mini fridge organizer. These things are awesome and I’m so glad I found this before I moved into the dorm. It’s basically a caddy organizer that goes on top of your fridge, and then you’re able to store your affordable kitchen gear and anything else you have for kitchen supplies right on your fridge.

Bedside Caddy

A bedside caddy is also another great essential for keeping things next to your bed. Bedside shelves are also really popular right now! They just give you a place to charge your phone at night and make it easier to keep things in reach when laying in bed.

A shower caddy is my next essential and I hope this one was already pretty obvious. This is the best way to carry things back and forth between your room and the bathroom. My secret with shower caddies is to buy a mesh one, not a plastic one!! Plastic shower caddies hold so much water which will get everything in your room wet and you’ll get annoyed with it very quickly. I loved my mesh shower caddy because it didn’t do this and was so much easier to store and carry.

Hangers Caddy

My next essentials are hangers and it’s important to remember to bring extra hangers, too! You’ll be doing a lot of shopping in college (trust me) and you’ll need extra hangers for all of your new clothes.


The next dorm room essential is a fan and this is a BIG one. Dorms can get soo hot and a fan might just save your life when hanging out or sleeping in your bed. I bought a nice stand-alone fan and actually used it all four years of college because it worked wonders in my bedrooms.

Moving Bags

It’s super smart to leave moving bags in your dorm as well. Bags are smarter than bins because they’re way easier to store, but it’s super nice to have them on hand instead of giving them to your parents after moving in.

Rolling Laundry Bag

My next essential is a rolling laundry bag or a backpack laundry bag. You'll probably get unlucky with having your dorm room super far away from the laundry room. So, make it easier on yourself with a laundry bag that’s easy to carry or roll to the laundry room.

Command Hooks

Command Hooks will be your absolute best friend all throughout college, but especially in the dorms. A Command Hook variety pack will be so helpful for hanging decor, jackets, robes, and so much more. I couldn’t even tell you how many Command Hooks I went through in college because they were just so helpful!

Extension Cords

Extension cords are also a big necessity. You’ll probably need at least two extension cords in your dorm room, believe it or not. There aren’t many outlets in a dorm room so you’ll need alllll the outlets you can get.


And last but not least, my final dorm living essential is a vacuum. The dorm will most likely have a big vacuum you can share with your other floormates, but having a little Dirt Devil that you can keep in your room will be so useful. They’re cheap and will make cleaning up your dorm quicker and easier.

Questions from incoming freshman:

Do I need to get plastic plates and forks?

I think this completely depends on the dorm and whether you have a dining hall in your dorm or not. Plastic plates and forks take up so much space that you probably don’t have as well. I bought some and never used them, so I would suggest skipping these when packing.

How big of a trash can should I get?

I recommend getting a small trash can, preferably the size of a bathroom trash can. You don’t want it to take up too much space, or be too big for two people. A small trash can will solve both of these problems!

Advice from college student (who just lived in the dorms):

Heading off to college is such an exciting milestone, but transforming a plain dorm room into a trendy space you’ll want to spend all your time in can be a pretty stressful task. I know you’re probably looking all over social media for inspiration on how to design your dorm room (just like I did for months and months and months before actually heading off to college) thinking that it’ll be so much work and wondering where to even start to style and organize the dorm room of your dreams!

I completely understand that moving to college can be challenging and overwhelming at the beginning. Don’t worry just yet though, because, in this post of things to bring to college, I’m going to let you in on all the essential items that will turn your bland, small freshman year dorm room into a stylish and functional space in no time.

Not only is this list of all the items you need to bring to college perfect for any freshman beginning their college experience, but these dorm room essentials can be so useful for even an upperclassman who might still need to elevate their organization, decor, or style. Some essentials I’ll talk more about later include coffee makers, fans, mini fridges, dorm room bedding, chargers, power strips, laundry baskets, trash cans, mattress topper, and many more. It’s so easy to forget things when packing up your whole life to move to college. So, let’s make sure we have every dorm room essentials we need before making our rooms look pretty!

From multifunctional furniture to clever storage solutions, get ready to organize your space and create a home away from home that you’ll never want to leave. I'm so jealous you have this dorm room checklist to discover how to make the most of your dorm room experience!

You can find ALL the links to my Dorm Room Essentials for 2024 here!

Dorm Bedding Essentials

Maybe the most important part of dorm room essentials are the dorm bedding essentials. Because dorms are so small, beds are most likely the central and most important part of your dorm room, so we want to make sure that your bed is comfortable, stylish, and your favorite part of your dorm!

Mattress Topper

First up on my dorm room packing list of bedding essentials is a mattress topper. This is 100% the most important thing to create the most comfortable dorm room bed you could imagine. I swear by this hack and actually loved my dorm bed simply due to my mattress topper.

Mattress Protector

Next up is a mattress protector. It’s kind of gross to think about, but there are probably so many people who have slept in your bed and on your mattress before… That’s why a mattress protector is extremely important.

Twin XL Sheets

Twin XL sheets are my next dorm bedding essentials because of course you need sheets on your bed! One of my favorite dorm bedding hacks is to only bring one set of sheets to college. This will save space by not having to store a whole other set of sheets, and it’ll force you to clean your sheets and make your bed faster. If you have a bigger budget and can buy two sets, go for it! But I found that one set was always perfect for me.

Duvet & Duvet Topper

The next thing you’ll need for your dorm bed is a duvet and a duvet topper. There are so many cheap and super cute duvet cover options online. I also preferred a duvet over a comforter because they're lighter and won’t make you sweat at night. It’s important to make sure your duvet can fit into a small washer & dryer as well.


You’ll also need a pillow! If you’re someone who typically sleeps with a lot of pillows at home, I would bring two pillows max. I only had a couple of pillows and it was perfect.

Decorative Pillow

I would highly recommend only bringing one decorative pillow!! More than one will make your bed look super small and more than 3-4 pillows total will get extremely annoying in such a small room. Throw pillows are also so expensive so this can save you lots of money!

Throw Blanket

A throw blanket is also important for a dorm room because it makes your bed look cute! It’s also so easy to “store” a blanket for everyday use on your bed.


Finally, an ottoman is a super smart dorm bedding essentials. If your bed is tall, this can double as a way to climb into bed and as extra storage for random necessities. You can even get little stools instead of an ottoman if you’re good for storage!

Questions from incoming freshman:

Is it worth getting nice bedding for your dorm?

I don’t think it’s worth getting nice bedding for your dorm. This will probably be one of the only years that you have a twin-sized bed, so you don’t want to spend too much money on bedding that you won't use again. I would only suggest spending more on a larger duvet because you could use those again.

Do you really need twin XL sheets for college?

Yes! If you get bigger sheets it’ll be much harder to make your bed and keep it looking nice. They might be harder to find, but I recommend getting the exact size sheets that are for your dorm bed.

Dorm Bathroom Must-Haves

And last but not least, we have all the things for dorm bathroom must-haves! Because the dorm bathrooms are shared, you luckily won’t need that much for your bathroom (unless you have your own suite).

Shower Caddy

The first bathroom essential is a shower caddy. As I mentioned before, do yourself a favor and get a mesh shower caddy! This will make your life so much easier and keep your things way drier than a plastic shower caddy will. I made the mistake of getting a plastic caddy at first, but when I switched to a mesh shower caddy it made all the difference in the world.

Towel Set

The next bathroom essential is a towel set. In this towel set, I would recommend having hand, face, body, and hair towels. A hair wrap towel was one of my favorite things I had freshman year, and I still use one to this day.

Towel Wrap

Instead of using the body towel that came with my towel set, I actually got a towel wrap that had velcro and it was amazinggg for living in the dorms! You didn’t have to worry about your towel falling off when walking back to your room after a shower. I felt much more comfortable walking by boys’ dorm rooms with it lol.

If you have a bathroom suite:

There are also some dorm bathroom must-haves that are specifically for those who are living in a suite freshman year. I’m jealous!! You’ll need a few more things for this than if you are just in a regular dorm room.

Trash Can

The first thing you’ll need to pack is a trash can. You can get these for super cheap at Target or Amazon, but you’ll definitely need one in your bathroom.

Bath Mat

My next essential is a bath mat. This one is pretty self-explanatory and can also be found on Target or Amazon. You’ll just need something to keep your floors and feet clean!

Shower Curtain & Liner

You’ll also need a shower curtain and shower liner. This essential is pretty fun because you can use this as a way to decorate and personalize your bathroom! I loved decorating my bathroom like this sophomore year so it’s even more fun to do this freshman year.

Hand Soap

My last essential for dorm bathroom suites is hand soap! I actually love getting cute hand soap at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx because they look so good in any bathroom and they have tons of options.

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